11 Brilliant Gifts for the Teacher in Your Life

iStock
iStock

Few people play such an important role in young lives (and parents’ lives) as teachers. Whether they lead kindergarten or university classes, educators work tirelessly to serve their pupils—and don’t always get rewarded as well as they should. Give back this holiday season with gifts that are (mostly) classroom ready.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

1. A Thank You Note; Free

iStock

Sometimes the best things in life don’t cost anything at all. Let your favorite teacher know how much they’re appreciated with a hand-written note. Chances are, they don’t hear it enough.

2. The Art of Caramel

This sweet and salty gift box includes four different flavors of caramel corn, like Kentucky Bourbon Black Pepper and Honey Graham. Each flavor is designed to accompany the bottle of wine included—a 2016 Dime Red Blend from Sonoma, California. Give it to one teacher who really needs a break, or split up the flavors and hand them out to several teachers.

Find It at Winc for $50.

3. Library Card Tote Bag

This cotton tote bag lets the wearer proclaim their love of reading and nostalgia for analog catalog systems. It has a useful little pocket inside to keep keys or a cell phone accessible and it's perfect for carrying home heavy textbooks or lesson-plan binders.

Find It at Uncommon Goods for $20.

4. Personalized Moleskine Notebooks

Taking down notes and making to-do lists can be a personal activity, and these notebooks reflect that. For an extra $5, they can be personalized with any text (up to 12 characters), giving you the opportunity to emboss them with a brief thank you note or the recipient’s name.

Find It at Moleskine for $20 and up.

5. Hot Chocolate Sticks

Three hot chocolate sticks
Amazon

Available in dark, milk, and white chocolate flavors, these hot chocolate sticks are a great no-fuss treat for busy teachers. All they have to do is swirl one around in hot milk for one or two minutes to make delicious hot chocolate. The six-pack gift box has two of each flavor and comes wrapped in a brown bow.

Find It at Amazon for $14 and at these other retailers:

6. Percy The Pencil Porcupine

This porcupine-shaped pencil holder is both utilitarian and whimsical, letting your favorite educator show some desktop flair. It’s made from glazed clay and stands about 4 inches tall, with room to hold more than a dozen pencils.

Find It at Uncommon Goods for $19 and at these other retailers:

7. Classroom Supply Pack

Some teachers need classroom supplies more than they need trinkets and holiday sweets. Amazon’s classroom supply pack bundles together basics like pencils, art paper, notebooks, facial tissue, hand sanitizer, and glue sticks. Even if your favorite educator doesn’t need a new pair of scissors for their classroom, one of their deserving students might.

Find It at Amazon for $40.

8. Great Quotes from Great Leaders Boxed Calendar

Great Quotes for Great Leaders Calendar
Amazon

Bring some inspiration to the classroom by gifting your teacher this 2019 calendar. Each day of the year features a different quote from one of the world’s foremost leaders and thinkers, from Mahatma Gandhi to Thomas Jefferson to Queen Victoria. They’ll hopefully learn something new, and their students will, too.

Find It at Amazon for $7.

9. 2019 Wildwood Planner

Front cover of the planner
Rifle Paper Co

A brand new planner is a great way to get a fresh start. Help your teacher gear up for 2019 with this beautifully crafted planner, which features a floral pattern on the cover and gold-colored accents throughout. It’s filled with inspirational quotes, a pocket in the back, and perhaps most excitingly, three sheets of stickers.

Find It at Rifle Paper and Co. for $34 and at these other retailers:

10. Fund A Classroom Project

Tim Boyle/Getty Images

If you really want to help out a classroom, give some cash to a local project on DonorsChoose.org, a site that allows schools and educators to crowdfund classroom projects. Help purchase computers or printers for the classroom, sound systems for dance classes, standard classroom materials, and more.

Find It at DonorsChoose.org.

11. Amazon Gift Card

If you don’t know exactly what kind of supplies a classroom needs, leave it up to the teacher in question by giving an Amazon gift card. Whether they’re looking to fund an art project or just buy basic supplies for kids, they’ll be able to put the money to good use.

Find It at Amazon.

ThinkGeek Is Merging With GameStop, and Everything is 50 Percent Off Right Now

ThinkGeek
ThinkGeek

ThinkGeek, that beloved destination for nerdy goods like Star Trek bathing suits, Game of Thrones doormats, and astronomy-themed jewelry, is moving. While the site isn't going out of business, it is merging operations with its parent company, GameStop, and shutting down its website in the process. "After this move, you will be able to shop a curated selection of unique items historically found on ThinkGeek.com via a ThinkGeek section at GameStop," the site explains. And that's good news for you, if you're looking for a bargain. 

ThinkGeek is clearing out inventory by offering 50 percent off everything on its website. That includes 20-side-die-themed waffle makers, constellation lamps, unicorn wall sconces, and more. There are whimsical goods and apparel designed for fans of everything from Doctor Who to The Avengers to Star Wars to J.R.R. Tolkien to Harry Potter to Firefly to Pokemon. Love Funko POP! figurines? ThinkGeek has you covered. What about Super Mario Bros.? Heck yeah. This would be a great time to search for a Halloween costume.

Here are a few things that we would buy if we were you, but there are more cool designs available than we could ever highlight here. 


This 34-ounce TARDIS French press coffee maker is just $20.


ThinkGeek has a bunch of pop-culture themed wallets, but this Star Trek one is extra cool. And it is now just $10. (The NASA one is also great.)


This constellation backpack is out of this world. It's just $24 with the discount.


For $7.50, it's hard to resist this Mario-themed soap dispenser. Add a Mario-themed toothbrush holder to really make getting ready in the morning fun. If you're all about that bar soap, there's also a soap dish.


Wrap yourself in happiness with this Bob Ross-themed blanket that is just $17.50.


If you want to wear your fandom, this Harry Potter Deathly Hallows necklace set is an attractive choice. They're just $7.50 for two.


This handsome Mars watch doesn't have typical hour and minute hands. The moon Phobos orbits the Red Planet as the minute hand, the moon Deimos is the hour hand, and a miniature Mars rover takes the place of the second hand. It's a steal at just $20. 


When it's filled with hot liquid, this Game Boy mug changes from a blank screen to an image of Mario rescuing Daisy. It's only $7.50.


Several '90s cartoon-themed lunch boxes with puzzles are on sale, including ones celebrating Rocko's Modern Life, Hey Arnold!, and Rugrats. The puzzles that come inside the tin lunch boxes are 500 pieces. At less than $5 each, you should go ahead and buy all three.

Shop the sale here using the code MOVINGDAY until July 2. Unfortunately, because of the nature of the sale, all purchases are final, and you'll have to pay for shipping.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

10 Surprisingly Cheap Items Everyone Should Have in Their Kitchen

iStock.com/4kodiak
iStock.com/4kodiak

When shopping for certain kitchen gadgets, sometimes paying a little extra is worth it. But there are plenty of supplies that can greatly improve your cooking skills without hurting your wallet. Some of the most essential tools to have in your kitchen are available from quality brands in the $10 to $30 range. If you want to take your food to the next level on a budget, these are the products you should own.

1. Wooden Spoon; $15 for Three

Three wooden spoons
OXO, Amazon

There are many fancy kitchen utensils available to home cooks today, but the best type of spoon for cooking is one that’s been around for centuries. Wooden spoons have several advantages over spoons made from metal or plastic: They don’t conduct heat well, they won’t scratch the bottom of your expensive pan, and they won’t leach chemicals into your food. They’re also just as durable as they are versatile. Wood is naturally antibacterial, and if you care for your spoon properly, it will last you through countless meals. OXO sells a set of three different wooden spoons for under $15. (We also like OXO's single corner spoon, which is sold out on Amazon right now—but you can still get it from Bed Bath & Beyond for $6.)

Buy it: Amazon

2. Silicone Mat; $25

Silpat with macarons.
Silpat, Amazon

Neater than cooking spray and less wasteful than foil or parchment paper, silicone mats are essential for home cooks and bakers. These reusable mats turn any surface into a nonstick surface. When a baking sheet is lined with a silicone mat, temperamental items like cookies slide off in one piece. The mats are also easy to wipe down and can survive thousands of baking sessions. They can also make cleanup easier when roasting savory items like vegetables and chicken wings.

But it from Amazon

3. Kitchen Shears; $20

Kitchen shears.
Apogee Culinary Designs, Amazon

Quality knives are vital in the kitchen, but no collection of cutting tools is complete without a good pair of scissors. A home cook needs kitchen shears for butchering jobs, like spatchcocking a chicken. Kitchen shears are also useful for trimming pie crusts, snipping herbs, and even cracking open lobster claws. And unlike decent chef’s knives, a great pair of shears can cost as little as $20.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Digital Scale; $18

Digital kitchen scale.
Etekcity, Amazon

If you’re serious about baking, invest in a kitchen scale. Baking is all about precision, and it’s hard to be precise when working with measuring cups and spoons. A digital scale, however, can measure your flour and sugar down to a fraction of an ounce. It’s also great for making recipes written in metric units. (Say, if you're cooking from Great British Bake Off recipes.)

Buy it: Amazon

5. Mortar and Pestle; $25

Mortar and pestle.
Fox Run, Amazon

A bulky mortar and pestle may seem antiquated in today’s modern kitchen, but it’s necessary if you want to take your cooking to the next level. Some spices—like fennel seeds, cardamom, and peppercorns—taste much better freshly ground than they do out of the jar. Using a mortar and pestle is also the key to making professional-tasting sauces and condiments, such as aioli, pesto, curry paste, hummus, and guacamole.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Box Grater; $12

Box grater.
Cuisinart, Amazon

Think of a box grater as more than a basic cheese grater. Each of the four sides serves a special purpose, from slicing to zesting. You can use it to shred potatoes for latkes, grate nutmeg for desserts, or slice zucchini for ratatouille. Of course, the cheese-grating capabilities alone are worth it if you like to make mac and cheese at home.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Instant-Read Thermometer; $27

Instant-read thermometer.
Lavatools, Amazon

There are many tricks you can use to gauge if your meat is cooked properly, but none are as foolproof as an instant-read thermometer. The tool makes cooking steak, chicken, and roasts much simpler and less stressful. It’s also essential for deep frying food or making candy like caramel at home. Sometimes an extra minute of heat is all it takes to push an ingredient from perfect to inedible, so the time it saves you compared to analog thermometers is definitely worth the price.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Citrus Juicer; $15

Citrus hand juicer.
Zulay Kitchen, Amazon

Fresh citrus juice is superior to the packaged stuff, but squeezing halved fruits by hand can get messy. With a manual press juicer, you can add bright, acidic notes of lemon and lime to your meals without stinging your fingers. This tool also catches the seeds for you, making squeezing citrus juice over your food almost as easy as squeezing it from a bottle. Even if you don't use it often while cooking, it's an essential component of any good bar cart.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Locking Tongs; $13

Pair of locking tongs.
OXO, Amazon

Bare hands are underrated tools in the kitchen, but some jobs just can’t be done without tongs. If you’re flipping hot meat on the grill, tossing wings in buffalo sauce, or serving pasta, you’ll need a decent pair of locking tongs to keep your hands clean and unburnt. Fortunately, durable, stainless steel tongs with smooth, pinch-free locks are easy to find for less than $15.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Cast Iron Skillet; $15

A cast iron skillet
Lodge, Amazon

Cast iron skillets seem like they should be expensive. They’re heavy, long-lasting, and they make food taste amazing. Steaks, potatoes, and hamburgers all benefit from the material’s unique heat-conducting properties. But you don’t need to blow your paycheck to own this tool chefs swear by: Some of the best cast irons available cost less than $25. As long as you care for it properly, buying a cast iron skillet is one of the cheapest ways to improve your cooking.

Buy it: Amazon

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

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